Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spotlight on parking lot issue at New Hope PA Borough Council meeting

The focus was on parking lot hours of operation at Tuesday night's meeting of the New Hope Borough Council.

It seems that when the borough took over ownership of Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church and its adjacent parking lot a few years ago, it also gained the legal right to change parking lot policy.  Net effect: a $3.00-$5.00 lot allowing parking until 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 9:00 p.m. Sunday became a metered lot that shut down at 9:00 p.m. every night of the week.

One can park at other metered locations throughout the borough, pay only until 9:00, and vehicles can be left overnight for no charge.

When Friday Night Fireworks began this summer, some car owners reported being ticketed in the borough lot, although they had returned quickly to their vehicles after the show.  That, in turn, gained the attention W. Mechanic St. business owners, including Joel Roberts, who raised the issue with Borough Council and was invited to speak during the public portion of their monthly meeting by Council President Sharyn Keiser.

(Later in the summer, police tacitly began allowing cars to stay until around 10:30 p.m. on friday nights to accomodate visiting fireworks spectators.)

Speakers on both sides of the issue were respectful and reasoned, with varying resident views of where New Hope's future lies.  Aside from Roberts, Frank Policare of Penn Wealth Planning spoke articulately about returning to a more vibrant commercial era featuring late evening dining and entertainment, and Ernie Bowman, former Historic Archictectural Review Board Chairman, talked eloquently of a period even further back in time when New Hope was a less crowded, quieter place in which to live.

After listening to public speakers representing all sides of the issue, Borough Council voted and proposed a compromise solution providing for lot closure at 10:30 each evening. Councilpersons Bill Scandone and Ed Duffy objected to the proposal, emphasizing the need to help local commerce by extending lot hours until at least 11:00 p.m.

The issue will be heard before Borough Council again on September 21, at which time the proposal for a nightly 10:30 parking lot closure can be approved or denied following public input, or a new proposal for a different hour can be discussed and put forth for a vote during the following month's meeting.

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